Mexican company gets deal to invest in Mariel

havana-live-richmeatHAVANA, 1 Mar. (Reuters) – A Mexican meat processing firm has become the first international company to get approval for an investment project in Cuba’s first special economic development area, Mexico’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.

Richmeat de Mexico plans to invest in the processing and packing of meat within the Mariel special development zone of the island, the ministry said in a statement, without giving details of how much money was involved. News of the investment follows December’s agreement between the United States and Cuba to restore diplomatic ties after more than five decades.

That spurred hopes that the communist-run island could be start to open up its economy. The Mexican government is keen to play a central role in the process of ending Cuba’s diplomatic and economic isolation.

The rules and regulations governing the Mariel area were first set out in 2013, but companies have been slow to take advantage of the tax and customs breaks it is meant to offer. The special development zone covers 180 square miles (466 square km) west of Havana and is centered on a new container terminal in Mariel Bay, 28 miles from the Cuban capital.